PART 1: CONVERSATIONAL ORDERING, WHAT IS IT & DOES IT HAVE A PLACE IN TABLE SERVICE?
“Conversational ordering” in the hospitality business refers to a specific approach to taking food and beverage orders from customers more conversationally and engagingly. It has its roots in counter service operations such as coffee shops and juice bars, but does it have a place in table service restaurants?
This approach aims to enhance the guest experience by building rapport with customers, understanding their preferences, and providing personalized service. The concept goes beyond the traditional, formal, and transactional methods of taking orders.
Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of Conversational Ordering and how it applies and benefits table-service operations:
- Personalization: Conversational ordering starts with discovering each guest’s individual needs and preferences. When a server engages in a conversation with the customer, they can gather information about dietary restrictions, likes, dislikes, allergies, and special requests. This information is then used to tailor the dining experience to the customer’s liking.
- Building Rapport: Servers engage in friendly and natural conversations with guests, creating a more welcoming and relaxed atmosphere. This helps in building a connection between the server and the guest, making the dining experience more enjoyable.
- Menu Suggestions and Recommendations: Conversational ordering allows servers to provide menu suggestions and recommendations based on the customer’s preferences and the restaurant’s offerings. For example, a server might say, “If you enjoy spicy dishes, I would highly recommend our special jalapeño-infused pasta.”
- Detailed Descriptions: Servers can provide detailed descriptions of the dishes, explaining ingredients, cooking methods, and any unique or signature aspects of the menu items. This helps customers make informed decisions and encourages them to explore the menu.
- Specials and Promotions: Conversational ordering is an excellent opportunity to inform customers about daily specials, promotions, or limited-time menu items. It’s a more engaging way to showcase the restaurant’s unique offerings.
- Confirmation and Clarification: Throughout the conversation, servers can confirm orders and clarify any ambiguities. This helps avoid misunderstandings and ensures the customer gets exactly what they desire.
- Timeliness: While maintaining a conversational approach, servers should also be mindful of the timing. They must ensure that the ordering process doesn’t make guests wait too long or feel rushed. A good balance between conversation and efficiency is essential.
- Feedback and Problem Resolution: If a customer has any concerns or specific requests, the conversational approach allows them to express their preferences or issues comfortably. Servers can then address these concerns promptly, which is vital for guest satisfaction.
- Upselling: In a friendly and informative manner, servers can recommend add-ons or upgrades, such as suggesting a wine pairing with the selected dish, enticing customers to try appetizers or desserts, or offering premium ingredients. This can boost revenue for the restaurant.
- Post-Meal Interaction: After the meal, servers can engage in conversation with customers, ask for feedback, and inquire about their overall experience. This is an opportunity to address any concerns and leave a lasting positive impression.
Conversational ordering is not just about taking orders; it’s about creating a memorable dining experience. By fostering a personal connection, providing tailored recommendations, and being attentive to customer needs, restaurants can elevate their service and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. It’s a strategy that can set a restaurant apart in a competitive industry.
In part two we’ll explore the specific technology capabilities that can enable servers to engage guests conversationally, provide some recommendations for different service styles and concepts, and examine the business benefits of the approach.